WIC Gardening Update 10 Oct 2012

Posted 11 years, 8 months ago by Kathryn Mercer - WIC Project Manager    0 comments

Hello and ni hau

Some of you (Hindus, Jains and Sikhs) will be celebrating the Diwali festival this week, there are several events running in Hamilton that everyone is welcome to, some are free.  It is traditional to eat sweets during this festival - a real challenge for people with diabetes! The India Tribune has some tips for a healthy Diwali.

Diwali is known as the festival of lights.  There are many cultures that have celebrations around light or sunshine. 

Plants need light to grow, but the amount of light they need varies depending on where the plant developed: a plant that naturally occurred on the forest floor where it was shaded will need a less light than one that naturally grew in open desert.  Seed packets and plant catalogues usually tell you whether a plant does best in full sun, part shade or shade. 

Plants need light to photosynthesise: photosynthesis turns light + water + carbon dioxide into sugars (carbohydrates)  + oxygen.  Almost all animals, including us, cannot live without eating the sugars (or other animals that have eaten the sugars) and breathing the oxygen that plants make.  Learn more by listening or downloading a podcast from Radio NZ.

With NZ's high UV light, even plants that developed in a desert environment can sometimes get sunburnt.   We had a particularly sunny summer a few years ago here in the Waikato: some of us were finding hard green spots in our ripe tomatoes - it was sun burn!

Feeling Good

People have a set of genes in common with plants: in plants, this DNA helps them respond to light, turning towards it.  Scientists are not sure yet what the DNA does for us, but we do know that getting a little sunshine helps us to feel good - something you get as part of your gardening routine!

This is Mental Health Awareness Week. Worldwide it is estimated that about 1 in 5 people will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime. Depression is expected to be the 2nd largest disease burden in the world (after heart disease) by 2020.

Many of you have spoken to us about the way gardening helps to calm you, to cheer you up, to make you feel connected to your new country, to give you a place of refuge and the way that the WIC project helps to connect you to other people, helping you to feel less isolated. 

Gardening helps you feel good mentally. In addition to getting some sunshine, you can have better mental health through gardening in these ways:

  • Be active – exercise makes us feel good
  • Sleep well - all that exercise helps us to sleep
  • Connect - gardening is a way of meeting other people with a common interest
  • Give - gardening gives us a way to share resources with others
  • Keep learning - even experienced gardeners are still learners! Try new things, see opportunities, be surprised
  • Being in nature - helps to put our own problems in perspective
  • Animals in the garden - wild or pets - can make us laugh, give us affection and make us curious
  • Growing our own food gives us a sense of achievement and empowerment - even if we are not earning money we can help to feed our families
  • Eat well – healthy food helps with a healthy mind
  • Take notice - the garden is full of simple things that can bring you joy - smell the roses, enjoy the sweetness of fresh fruit...

If you feel sad and hopeless most of the time, ask your health professional for help.  There are a number of free clinics around the Waikato including K'aute Pasifika Services and the clinic by the Link Centre in Tokoroa.  

HOGs meeting – Supporting School Gardens

This month at the Hamilton Organic Gardeners meeting Avis Leeson will talk about her experiences gardening with schools and children. Andrea Soanes from Enviroschools will also be talking about their school Kai project and how this might link to HOGs and other community members. If you want to involve children in gardening, come along and learn! Everyone is welcome. 

Monday 15th October, 7:30pm, at Te Whare o te Ata, 60a Sare Crescent Fairfield, Hamilton. Limited parking in the carpark. You may like to opt to park on Clarkin Road and walk across the park.

Reminder: Making Garden Structures

Get ready for beans, tomatoes and other climbing summer veges by making stakes, ties and frames. Join us in the Grandview Community Garden.  Free. All Welcome!

When: Monday 15 Oct, 10 am - 12.00 noon.

Where: Enter through the gate opposite 183 Grandview Rd (look for the WIC banner). Bus route number 8 (Frankton), cycle parking by the shed or park cars on Grandview Road.

Any questions? Contact Clare (ph 021 0387623) or Tim (ph 021 2243109), the WIC Community Garden Mentors.

Get Growing - now a free weekly e-zine

Talking about garden structures, there are some great ideas for free or low cost bean supports on pages 5-6 and 9-10 in the latest Get Growing e-zine (online magazine).

The free Get Growing weekly email put out by NZ Gardener magazine has just become an e-zine (online magazine).  If you haven't used an e-zine before, there is help here.  You can always view the latest issue here, or subscribe for a weekly email reminder.    

Among other things you can:

  • see the top 5 tasks to do in your garden each week
  • ask questions of their experts
  • find and swap plants and seeds
  • enter competitions
  • learn about NZ garden insects.

Reminder: USO Bike Tour - cancer awareness

Rates of cancer for Pacific Island People (especially men) are high, unfortunately many don't see their doctor until it is too late, when the cancer has had a chance to spread and is more difficult to treat.

Cancer is the most common cause of death amongst Pacific Island people, whereas it has been declining in most other New Zealanders. Lung and prostate cancers are the most common for men, with an increase in bowel cancers that is worrying. Over 2/3 of cancers are caused by lifestyle and therefore can be prevented. This means eating a healthy, balanced diet, high in vegetables with some fruits, lean dairy, lean meats and fish, and getting exercise - for example 30 minutes walking a day is all that is needed for health and wellbeing.

Come and welcome the USO Bike Tour Riders and learn more about how you can get checked for cancer.  Thursday 16 October, 6:30 pm at the Waikato Migrant Centre, Boundary Road, Claudelands, Hamilton. Food will be available.  All welcome! 

Reminder: Grow your own vegetables 

Disappointed you missed out on some of our workshopsor need a reminder? This short free hands-on practical session covers the basics of:

  • Vege growing - what can I plant now?
  • Getting the ground ready
  • Making compost
  • Sowing seeds – how and when to sow
  • How to feed your plants
  • Dealing with weeds
  • Pest control the organic way.

When: Thursday 18 October, 10am - 12pm, repeated 6.00pm - 8pm

Where: Grandview Community Garden. Entrance to the garden is through the gate opposite 183 Grandview Road. Park your bike by the shed, or take bus route 8 (Frankton), or park on Grandview Road.

Any questions? Contact Clare (ph 021 0387623) or Tim (ph 021 2243109), the WIC Community Garden Mentors.

This workshop is being run in conjunction with the Western Community Centre.

Reminder: Thriving on a Shoe String - Cooking classes

  • Do more than just “get by”
  • Grow a healthy family
  • Learn new practical skills in the kitchen

Topics include:

  • Shopping on a budget
  • Preserving fruits and vegetables
  • Menu planning
  • Time Savers – quick healthy snacks
  • One pot wonders

When: Thursdays, 18th October to 22nd November 2012, 9.30am – 12.00 noon

Where: Methodist Centre, 62 London St, Hamilton

Cost: $2 per session

Limited spaces: book a place - contact Wendy,  Methodist City Action, ph  8393917.  All welcome!

Reminder: Free Water Wise Workshop 

Join Tim, WIC Community Garden Mentor, to learn how to:

  • Collect and store rainwater for your garden
  • Minimise the amount of water you need to use
  • Water less often
  • Choose plants that don't need lots of water
  • Shape the landscape to make the most of your water.

You will see the solar water pump being used.

When: Saturday 20 October 2012, 2:30- 4pm.  (This workshop will also be repeated in November.)

Where: Grandview Community Garden. Entrance to the garden is through the gate opposite 183 Grandview Road. Park your bike by the shed, or take bus route 8 (Frankton), or park on Grandview Road.   


Hamilton now has a Time Bank!  One hour helping another person earns one Time Credit, that you can then use to get help from someone else - no money required!  People use the TimeBank to trade skills, knowledge and experience.   

For example, you could spend an hour mowing someone's lawn, then use the Time Credit to get another experienced person to weed with you - helping you to learn which pretty plants your landlord or neighbours think you should pull out, and what their English names are!

If you would like to become a member of Hamilton TimeBank, book your place for one of the orientation sessions, phone: 834 2249 or email: hamtimebank@gmail.com  Everyone is welcome.

When & Where: Choose one of these:

  • Tuesday 16 October, 12:30 - 2pm, Te Whare O Te Ata 60a Sare Crescent, Fairfield
  • Wednesday 24 October, 6 - 7:30 pm, Waikato Environment Centre, 25 Ward Street, Hamilton City (upstairs)
  • Friday 26 October, 12:30 - 2pm, Waimarie Community House, 53 Wellington Street, Hamilton East.

Please bring: finger food to share, 2 x names and phone numbers of referees, 2 x forms of identification (1 with photo; 1 with address).

Growing Kumara

A number of you have been asking about growing kumara. If you are not growing your own plants from the tubers (the part we eat), you will be able to buy some plants from garden centres. However, most growers consider it too soon to plant kumara outside yet - frost will kill your plants. 

WIC is running a free kumara growing workshop on Saturday 27 October, 2-3:30 pm.   There will be three experienced growers from giving us tips on how to get a good crop, even when you are gardening in a small space!  Everyone is welcome.

Peat soil

The Waikato has about half of all the peat lands in NZ.  Peat forms in wetlands (also called bogs or swamps) and is made from partly decomposed plants.  

Peat is very slow to form so it is treated as a non-renewable resource. Peat was a traditional ingredient in store-bought potting mixes, but it is increasingly being replaced with (renewable) coconut fibre (coir). 

Peat is naturally anaerobic (has no oxygen present) and is very acid (soil pH <4.5).  Learn more about peat soil on Ooooby

Plants for Peat: Blueberries, Cranberries and tea

Blueberriescranberries and Camellia sinensis (the plant used to make tea) like acidic (sometimes called sour) soils - so peat soils are perfect.  If you want to grow these acid-loving plants but don't have peat soil, Clare suggests using rotted woodchip mulch instead.

Plant away from where there has been lime used, or concrete paths etc.- these tend to raise the pH level.

Blueberries and tea can be grown as a hedge.  Cranberries make a good groundcover - I am planning a blueberry hedge under-planted with cranberries.

The birds love blueberries, so think about putting in some posts to support netting that covers the plants during fruiting season. 

Berry fruit tip:  Clare says that birds are attracted by the red colour of ripe strawberries, so cover them with an old net curtain that makes it hard to see the fruit.  The curtain will also make a nice warm microclimate that will help the fruit ripen!

Organic Pest Control

At the Organic Pest Control workshops last week people enjoyed finding cabbage (white) butterfly eggs and caterpillars, slugs and snails, which we squashed! Clare said, "it was nice to be able to tell these gardeners that they have taken the first  big slug and snail control steps", taking away concrete and timber takes away their homes. "Big smiles all round."

On the positive side, we also found a little brown skink - a small lizard that eats insects.   Some of the wild turnip has been left to flower, because like all brassica flowers, they attract beneficial insects like tiny wasps.  (The wild turnip flowers are also good to eat - they have a mustard flavour, with a burst of sweetness if the nectar (honey) hasn't already been drunk by an insect! Great in salads.)

In Season - Asparagus & Rhubarb

Asparagus is a spring vegetable being harvested now.  It is grown commercially in the Waikato.  It much cheaper to grow your own.  However, it is a perennial (needs a permanent bed) and takes at least one year before you can start harvesting it.  You can grow it from seed or from crowns.  There is more information about growing it on the Kings Seed BlogThere are lots of asparagus recipes on the Healthy Food Guide website.

If you have another perennial plant, rhubarb in your garden, you have probably noticed that it is growing much faster now that spring is here.  Rhubarb is a quirky plant: botanically it is a vegetable, but we usually eat it like a fruit.  You eat the stalks, not the leaves (the leaves are toxic). It is usually eaten cooked, but some people juice it raw. It has a sour taste, so it is often combined with sweeter fruit, like sultanas or apples.  

Rhubarb and apple crumble is a classic - there is a crumble recipe in the Heart Foundation Cheap Eats cookbook on page 24 (contact me if you would like a copy - it is free), or look at the Nourish version online - it includes walnuts, a chance to use some of the ones you foraged in autumn!  You could replace the butter with 1/4 cup vegetable oil for an even healthier recipe.  (Nourish is a Waikato magazine, so any garden tips will fit with our seasons.)  Rhubarb and strawberries are sometimes combined in desserts. Rhubarb & Strawberry Bars would be great in a lunchbox!

Have a great week enjoying your garden!

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